Review: THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (2022)

Genre: Adult Science Fiction
Year Release: 2022
Source: Audible

Rating: 5 out of 5.

Listened to the audiobook
Content warnings: gendered violence, parental death, brain washing, gun violence, state-sanctioned violence

This collection takes place in a world where memories can be hard encoded and people essentially function like computers. New Dawn has strict ideas of what being a functioning member of society means. Though there’s echoes of a utopia, it’s a full on surveillance state. Each of the five stories found within the collection takes on a different angle in how New Dawn poses a danger both for those within the system and those beyond it.

Thoughtfully woven together with rad stories and characters, incredible world-building, this was a delight to read, and I’m excited to dive into the source material (Dirty Computer, 2018) in the near future.

“The Memory Librarian” with Alaya Dawn Johnson is probably the trippiest and drops the read right in the center of the science fictionness of it all. It establishes the world-building and the indexing of memories as if humans are computers both pre- and post-mortem. Memory also serves as currency, lending a sense of unease in what should be a utopia.

When it comes to having a specific perspective, “Nevermind” with Danny Lore slaps. It’s got a community of women loving women who include nonbinary individuals as well. They have escaped New Dawn and a new drug brings new dangers. The action is epic, and the sense of personal and interpersonal responsibility and accountability is tangible. There is also so much world-building here in terms of exactly how the people at the hotel manage to survive beyond city limits. Inventive and surprisingly tender.

“Timebox” with Eve L. Ewing freaked me out. It’s about a room where time moves at a slowed place, and the introspection about all the things one would do if they had more time, and what kind of responsibility might be implied with such problems. New Dawn, of course, hates it, which adds a layer of in-world stress. It’s probably got the most pedestrian elements, with things like a yoga studios and a main character trying to balance work and life.

The stories get really personal here, with a family reeling from a father who died and a mother who’s not entirely there in “Save Changes” with Yohanca Delgado. The sense of timeline in this one is tense, and the twist in the end falls like dominos in a whirlwind of characterization both on an individual and familial level.

“Time Box Alta(red)” with Sheree Renée Thomas brings the entire collection full circle. It echoes all the ideas of identity, community, and shaping the future. It takes place in a commune far beyond the technological future, with something like first contact and almost literal magic.

The wide range of stories and experiences found within gives the world of Dirty Computer a sense of its own history and a feeling of being thoroughly lived in.

One thought on “Review: THE MEMORY LIBRARIAN: And Other Stories of Dirty Computer by Janelle Monáe (2022)

  1. Pingback: May 2022 Reading Recap | Jo Writes Fantasy

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